Always read the fine print before you sign the contract. That platitude is taking on new life as word comes that the winning bidder for bankrupt plug-in hybrid manufacturer Fisker may not actually earn the rights to use the company's name and logo. According to Delaware Online, that's because Fisker Automotive doesn't actually own either – they're the property of a different company called Fisker Coachbuild, LLC, and they have been used under license by the carmaker since 2008.

This interesting bifurcation of assets brings to mind a previous bit of auto history - Rolls-Royce and Vickers.

As it turns out, Fisker Coachbuild not only designs cars and components, it also has the merchandising rights to the Fisker name and logo for things like apparel and branded tchotchkes. How did this happen? According to the report, Coachbuild is a Fisker stockholder, and in 2008, a contract was signed by Bernhard Koehler (co-founder of Fisker and then-chief operating officer of Coachbuild) and designer and company namesake Henrik Fisker. Koehler and Fisker are actually in the logo, in a fashion, since it is supposed to represent the two men (the vertical lines) looking at the sunset (the red half circle) over the ocean (blue).

Fisker Coachbuild attorneys have now put the bankruptcy court on official notice about their ownership of these key assets, and it's unclear if this news will affect the actions of leading bidders Wanxiang America, Inc. and Hybrid Tech Holdings. Coachbuild does sound somewhat conciliatory, saying "...it is likely that Coachbuild will consent to the assignment of the rights provided for under the Trademark Agreement as part of the proposed sale" while simultaneously "reserving its rights under applicable law to bar the assumption and assignment of Trademark Agreement without its prior written consent."

This interesting bifurcation of assets brings to mind a previous bit of auto history. Back in 1998, British industrial conglomerate Vickers executed a now-legendary bit of wheeling-and-dealing that saw it sell the physical assets of luxury automaker Rolls-Royce to the Volkswagen Group. We say 'legendary' because it only sold the physical assets to VW – not the trademarks associated with them. Those trademarks included the Rolls-Royce name, famed double-R iconography and other assets – assets Vickers subsequently sold to BMW. It was a coup for both Vickers and BMW, and left VW execs red-faced and determined to make Bentley (a brand whose trademarks it did successfully acquire in the Rolls deal) its premiere luxury brand.


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  • 15 Comments
      Neil
      • 10 Months Ago
      Vickers did sell the trademarks it owned to VW along with the physical assets of Rolls-Royce Motor Cars. It just didn't own the Rolls-Royce trademark. This was, and still is, owned by Rolls-Royce plc, the aero-engine company. VW did buy the brand name that Rolls-Royce Motor Cars actually owned - the Bentley brand. The licencing agreement Rolls-Royce plc had with Rolls-Royce Motor Cars included a clause that ended the agreement should the car company become foreign owned, which it did with VW's purchase. Vickers did not sell the Rolls-Royce name to BMW. It wasn't theirs to sell. BMW were already aero-engine partners with Rolls-Royce plc, and on the ending of the licencing agreement that Rolls-Royce Motor Cars had had under Vickers' ownership, BMW negotiated a new licencing agreement with Rolls-Royce plc, not with Vickers. BMW still does not own the name.
      Winnie Jenkems
      • 10 Months Ago
      Hopefully the mustache isn't included, either. They can keep the mustache.
      Spec
      • 10 Months Ago
      Why would anyone want them?
      FIDTRO
      • 10 Months Ago
      The Chinese bidders probably aren't concerned about the name or the badge; they're just looking for the tech. Assuming you have the cash it's easier to buy than develop your own.
        PeterScott
        • 10 Months Ago
        @FIDTRO
        Tech? I really think the only thing here is the styling/design language. It might be a good fit for Chinese companies that tend to have really weird styling, or clones of other companies.
      Ashton
      • 10 Months Ago
      I always thought Fisker had one of the dumbest logo's...but now that I know what it represents, my thought has been confirmed.
      FuelToTheFire
      • 10 Months Ago
      Hopefully, Tesla will join Fisker in a few years.
      throwback
      • 10 Months Ago
      If they do start building the Karma again I think not using the Fisker name would be the way to go. Too many negative images associated with the name. Fire, government money, fire sale prices etc.
      m_2012
      • 10 Months Ago
      So you dont get the name or the logo. You dont get all the tech, but picked through 10 year old stuff. You cant have the batteries. You can assume the debtand thats about it. Whats the point? Cant we just let this die already? Their last hope was letting Lutz put V8's in them, but that looks hopeless. Just bury it already.
      Tadasi
      • 10 Months Ago
      Fisker is not a super name anyway. Fiskcheng or Fiskuang will be the same.
      EVnerdGene
      • 10 Months Ago
      drop a hand-full of chopsticks on the floor voila - new name
      CT Pete
      • 10 Months Ago
      This happens all the time - where a trademark of one company is owned and licensed by a related company. The trademark license would have been listed as an "asset" of the bankrupt Fisker. The bankruptcy judge has the absolute authority to order the transfer of the license to the purchaser of Fisker's assets, notwithstanding any reservation of assignment rights by the trademark owner.
      shoelessmike1
      • 10 Months Ago
      BMW does not own the Rolls-Royce name or logo, it belongs to Rolls-Royce PLC.
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